If there’s one thing live-action Disney remakes can teach us, it’s that audiences love a fresh take on an old classic. (The jury’s still out on Mulan, though.)
Refreshed content keeps people interested because it engages new audiences in new contexts. Disney remakes—whether you love ’em or hate ’em—ignite the wonder in young audiences and stoke nostalgia in older audiences. There’s something for everyone.
In the world of digital content marketing, remakes matter, too. Not just because you can expand to new audiences. HubSpot’s shown us that refreshed content can also lead to an uptick in overall web traffic. That’s a deeper and wider impact than if you let your content marketing stay the same.
To understand why you need to refresh content, let’s first explore what stale content can do to your content marketing efforts.
Old content is a drag
The main reason brands should stay on top of their digital content? SEO’s rules of engagement demand it.
While early Google algorithms penalized negligent and reckless brands that filled up digital spaces with fluffy and meaningless content, it was too little too late. Most brands now realize that content is king. The only way to matter online is to create content for online audiences. (That’s a lot of noise.)
Search engines have gotten pickier about their standards for what quality content looks like online. For example, “gray hat” SEO strategies of years past (like keyword stuffing) are penalized now because keyword stuffing does nobody any good and keyword stuffing a page can make the content exhausting to read. (Case in point: That sentence, which was exhausting to type.) Google’s algorithm updates, long considered the industry’s bellwether for change, have aimed to make the digital user experience paramount.
Not only have search engine expectations increased—so has keyword competition. In recent years, major brands have seen smaller competitors grow into digital media companies through content marketing, and now they’re pouring resources into content governance and content strategy to take back their chunk of digital viewership.
Content marketers need to look at existing content to see what’s growing, plateauing, and decaying. Using Google Analytics is one way to see how your content is trending. The adage goes, “A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.” This is especially true for digital content. As content decays, the dwindling SEO value on any web page can impact the overall SEO value of your site. That impact can add up, especially if multiple pages are dropping in keyword rankings.
Use keyword tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush to monitor rankings and stay out in front of any domain authority issues. Refreshing content—especially when it’s flanked by data—helps feed the robots.
Content freshness isn’t only important for technical reasons. You won’t be surprised to learn that humans care, too.
Content marketers should keep a finger on the pulse of the changing needs of their audience for the same reason it’s a little bit cringey watching the original Star Wars trilogy: Our tastes change. The quality that moviegoers were wowed by in the 1970s no longer blows us away in the same way today.
References also change. Some jokes that had yesteryear TV audiences guffawing don’t necessarily work now because they don’t make sense anymore (i.e., the reference isn’t familiar to us today) or they’re past their expiration date (though pre-#MeToo-era jokes about putting women down were never really very good).
And that’s before the global pandemic hit us. What audiences need today—what worries or excites them—might look different from what was top-of-mind before “social distancing” became a thing.
Content marketers today must solve for these ebbs and flows by making sure they’re looking for opportunities to breathe new life into existing content:
- Update data. There may be newer data sets and studies since you last published that content. Make your content stronger by ensuring the data you point to is valid and up to date.
- Update references. What’s hip in pop culture changes like the weather. If your content was published with references to current events from an earlier time, give it a quick scan to see if you can make it more current for now.
- Add (and remove) as needed. Some digital content will naturally need more context as ideas, technologies, and methodologies continue to mature around us. There’s a natural bias in marketing to add to content to improve it, but don’t be afraid to trim content down if you feel like there’s a stronger way to communicate it.
Stand the test of time … by constantly evolving
Bob Dylan once crooned, “The times, they are a-changin’.” It was perhaps the understatement of all time.
Content marketing evolves ultimately because people’s needs evolve. Audiences change. What worked 30 years ago on Flash-built websites and dial-up internet doesn’t work anymore because expectations change, too.
When planning a large-scale content refresh, don’t just think about dialing up the word count or adding a slew of new subheaders and sections. Think about the way audiences are consuming that content.
Use visuals to break up the screen for readers on different devices. Use lists to present your information in digestible ways. And seriously consider the way your audience is consuming content. With video accounting for 63% of today’s mobile traffic [PDF], it may be important to first refresh that blog post before strategically repurposing content for different channels.
But most important, be human. Imagine every piece of content is the handshake moment you’ll get with your audience. If you only have one chance to make a lasting impression, make it count. Refresh content because there’s always a way to improve how we forge that first connection.
Here’s how you start
Refreshing content is an important aspect of digital content marketing and larger digital marketing objectives, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Using data to inform how you refresh and rewrite content? Good. Writing just for the robots? Not good.
Sometimes organizations need support prioritizing the content that needs a timely overhaul. Is the content plateauing? Is the content decaying? What are the impacts to business goals when content becomes outdated?
That’s where we come in. At T3, we help brands take control of their content marketing’s entire lifecycle—from ideation all the way to the inevitable content refresh. Learn more about how we help brands like yours have better conversations online. For the robots and the humans, too.